Recently Steve Mathewson wrote a helpful post on the PreachingToday blog concerning application. He warned of the danger of too many “life application points” in preaching. How easy it is to overwhelm our listeners with to-do lists. I agree that this is a huge danger for us.
In some church circles people have become very fond of what they perceive to be highly relevant preaching. This often takes the form of “7 Keys to a Happy Marriage” or “5 Smooth Stones for Spiritual Battle.” Because people seem to respond to this kind of “list” preaching, it is a temptation to incorporate that into a more expositional model of preaching. So at the end of an expository sermon, the preacher will give a list of life application points. These are specific strategies to be implemented in daily life.
It is easy to overwhelm list-driven people with more lists to add to their backlog of lists. So what should we do? First, we should be sure to apply the main idea of the text/sermon rather than lists of secondary suggestions. Second, we should concentrate on helping people visualize how this could look in normal life. Perhaps we share two or three examples, but not as a list. Rather, this is a selection of possible scenarios out of which at least one will help listeners to see what the idea would look like in action in their life. Sometimes several scenarios will be unnecessary. Third, we must look for ways to include an encouraging tone in our application. This does not just mean an enthusiastic team talk that fires up our people. It means stirring an inner sense of motivation and a feeling of competence in our listeners. We easily overwhelm, but instead we should strive to give appropriate encouragement (the oft-missing ingredient).
If you didn’t see Steve’s post, it is well worth a read: http://blog.preachingtoday.com/2007/10/the_challenge_of_application.html